Dear mom,

You wanted me to write more to you about how it was growing up. I don’t think I was happy but I didn’t realize it then because I didn’t know what it felt like to be happy. I don’t think I had any birthday parties with friends and family. We just didn’t do it. I don’t think being unhappy is unusual. I don’t think I was unhappy, I just wasn’t happy, either. I don’t have many happy memories. Most of the dudes I’ve talked to in here weren’t happy as kids, either. Maybe that’s part of the reason why we’re in here. I think if we aren’t happy as kids and don’t have a family who is there for us, how can we expect them to be there for us now sitting in a prison? My family doesn’t care about me in here. But I have you and you care about me. Otherwise I’d have no one.

jamie cummings

How did I learn things about life? I guess I learned from everywhere. School and home and street friends. I was taught things by my mom, rules of what to do when she was working. But when she wasn’t around I usually did the opposite of what she wanted me to do. We had an aunt who lived down the street if we needed anything but we were mostly left up to ourselves to be good.

Once, I was placed in a children’s hospital because of my always leaving home. I had a problem with depression even as a child. My mom didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t like life having epilepsy. I wanted to be normal. It scared me and I didn’t really have anyone who could help me understand it. I always felt there was something wrong with me because I was different from the other kids. Sometimes my older brother and sister made fun of my seizures. I had so many seizures until I had brain surgery at age 12. It didn’t stop them but it helped.

I stayed in that children’s hospital for a few weeks but one day I begged my mom to come get me. She did but she never told me during the whole trip home that my cousin, who I was very close to had died. I got to my house and there were a lot of people there. It wasn’t until I walked into the the back room and saw him laid out did I know he died. I cried and cried. No one prepared me for the shock. I took that news real hard. He was my best friend. We were the only two sick kids in the family. Me, with epilepsy and him with sickle cell anemia. It didn’t matter he was older than me. I still think about him to this day.

It’s hard for me to write about myself. I know you want to know because of the book you started writing about me. I’ll do my best but so much of this I have stuffed deep inside and it makes me feel bad to remember it. Maybe it will get easier over time.

I’m still waiting for the books you sent. Hope they get here soon. The book on grammar will help me a lot. You asked if we could trade books we don’t want anymore. If an officer finds another inmate’s book in your cell they will take it and write up a case on you. It’s how they keep us down.

There are so many ordinary things that get you in trouble for no reason. So many dudes have no one to buy them books  and time goes by so slow. What is the harm in sharing books? There is none, but if they can write up a case they can keep you locked up by yourself for longer time. Sometimes they let it go, but you never know if they will. So it would be taking a big chance to do it. They call it trafficking and trading, and it’s a major case – all for a book.

Time to go and get some sleep

Love to you, Son

********************

(Sonni’s note: This letter was from some time ago. More than 2 1/2 years. I decided to reprint it to give newer readers a little more history on his life. I believe his story overall has a very powerful message. It is not an unusual story. There are many parallels with many of the stories in prison. So many inmates are not bad people. They are people who made a mistake and some are innocent and forced into plea deals. many of their mistakes were being born black in a society who still looks as whites being a superior race and blacks are meant to be used. The fact that so many parents today still pass down racism to their kids is truly sad. Of course that isn’t everyone, but looking at the percentages of white to black in our penal system tells the true story in this country who people say is a Christian nation but too many don’t live the Golden Rule. Will that change? Only when enough of us stand up for what is right and change what is wrong.

********************

 

THE NEXT MONTHLY ISSUE OF THE ITFO NEWSLETTER WILL BE GOING OUT SOON. TAP THE LINK TO GET IT DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX. EACH ISSUE NOW WILL FOCUS ON A DIFFERENT ASPECT OF PRISON ISSUES EACH MONTH. THERE HAS BEEN NO TALK OF PRISON REFORM SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN WHEN EVERYONE JUMPED ON THE BANDWAGON SAYING THEY WOULD BE THE ONE TO FIX IT. NOW NOTHING IS BEING SAID. IT WILL BE THE PEOPLE DEMANDING CHANGE THAT HAS THE ONLY CHANCE OF CHANGING THIS. PLEASE POST THIS ON YOUR OWN SM AND ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO SHARE IT, TOO. WE’VE SEEN WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE COME TOGETHER AS THE AMERICAN INDIANS HAVE DONE. WE NEED TO MAKE PRISON REFORM IMPORTANT, NOT JUST TALK ABOUT IT. CAN WE DO THAT?

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